In 1606 Smith became involved with the Virginia Company of London's plan to colonize Virginia for profit; it had been granted a charter by King James. The expedition set sail in three small ships, the Discovery, the Susan Constant and the Godspeed, on 20 December 1606. His page was a 12-year-old boy named Samuel Collier.
During the voyage, Smith was charged with mutiny, and Captain Christopher Newport (in charge of the three ships) had planned to execute him. Fortunately for Smith, upon first landing at what is now Cape Henry on 26 April 1607, unsealed orders from the Virginia Company designated Smith to be one of the leaders of the new colony, thus, perhaps, sparing Smith from the gallows.
The English arrived at Jamestown in April 1607 and, by summer of that year, the settlers were still living in temporary housing. The search for a suitable site ended on 14 May 1607, when Captain Edward Maria Wingfield, president of the council, chose the Jamestown site as the location for the colony. After the four-month ocean trip, their food stores were sufficient only for each to have a cup or two of grain-meal per day. Due to swampy conditions and widespread disease, someone died almost every day. By September, more than 60 were dead of the 104 brought by Newport. The men may well have died from drinking brackish creek water and from poor nutrition.
In early January 1608, nearly 100 new settlers arrived with Captain Newport, and through carelessness the village was set on fire. That winter the James River froze over, and the settlers were forced to live in the burnt ruins. During this time, for the three months that Newport and his crew were in port, they wasted much time loading their ships with iron pyrite (fool's gold). Food supplies ran low and although the native Americans brought some food, Smith wrote that "more than half of us died".
In April 1608 a ship brought supplies and 50 new settlers, whom Smith set to construct housing and do...